†5 MS TEMPLEMAN : To move—That this House:
(1) notes with dismay that suicide is the leading cause of death among Australians aged 15 to 24 years;
(2) recognises that young people’s decision to access mental health care is fragile, and if they do not have a positive experience, they may not make another attempt to seek help;
(3) further notes that youth-friendly mental health services are not available uniformly to young people; and
(4) calls on the Government to:
(a) increase access to effective mental health services and supports for young people across all stages of mental ill-health; and
(b) build a youth mental health workforce to meet the current and future needs.
I thank the member for Macquarie for this important motion
When it comes to public policy, surely nothing is more important than creating change to bring hope and health to the citizens we serve. Most especially our young citizens.
When I think about suicide prevention, I think about how we create, maintain, or restore hope.
We have heard the statistics, but we must never lose sight that each statistic represents a person—with a family and community grieving for their loss, with devastating and long-lasting effects on those left behind.
I know because like thousands of families across Australia my family lost a beloved family member to suicide on July 27, 2002. Pete was aged 40 years.
Suicide can affect anyone but we know some populations are at greater risk. There is also no single reason why a person chooses to end their life. The reasons are often complex.
The prevalence of people experiencing mental illness is similar across the nation: around 20 per cent. However, rates of self-harm and suicide increase with remoteness, suggesting there are very significant mental health issues to be addressed in rural and remote areas.
Deaths by suicide are preventable. First things first, it’s about removing the unrelenting stress incurred when the basics of daily life are not a sure thing. Suicide prevention starts when you never have to worry about having a safe home, when you can get the education you want, a secure job that you enjoy with fair pay. When you know your race, gender or sexuality will not impact how you live your life. When you’re confident there is a safety net for when things go wrong.
Context and place are key to person-centred suicide prevention. There are some incredible local initiatives in my Indi electorate demonstrating how local people can take action and bring hope.
The fact that we have Headspace in our border region is a very real human story of an incredible family and a powerful community campaign. The Baker family from Albury lost their beautiful 15-year-old daughter Mary to suicide in 2011. Mary had an eating disorder, and suicide is 31 times more likely to occur for someone with an eating disorder.
Together with the Border Mail “Ending Suicide Silence” campaign the people of the border successfully lobbied the Federal Government to get this facility.
Annette and Stuart Baker did not leave it there – they founded Survivors of Suicide and Friends and created the annual Winter Solstice event in Albury. This event is an opportunity for communities to gather on the longest and often coldest night of the year to be entertained, enlightened and supported.
Annette Baker says the Winter Solstice came out of a need to support locals who had lost a loved one to suicide and to remove the stigma associated with it. She said, and I quote:
“Being the longest night of the year, it can be a hard, dark time. I thought the winter solstice was a beautiful symbolic date to hold an event”
Last year I was deeply honoured to recite a poem at the event. This year one of our parliamentary colleagues the Hon Linda Burney will be the guest speaker.
Another example is the community of Benalla and the Live4Life whole of community youth suicide prevention model, which began in 2017 and is piloted by Benalla Rural City Council.
Live4Life aims to increase the mental health knowledge of all year 8 and year 11 students, their teachers, parents and carers, and reduce barriers to seeking help for emerging or current mental health issues in young people.
The community partnership includes NE Tracks LLEN, Tomorrow Today Foundation, Victoria Police, Benalla Health and Hume Central Hume Primary Care Partnership, NESAY, NECAHMS and local community members.
So far, 508 year 7-9s, 282 year 10-12s, and 25 adults have undertaken the training .
The hard work of the Benalla community has been recognised and will be bolstered by a Mental Health Hub funded by the Victorian Government as part of its response to the Victorian Mental Health Royal Commission. The community can take great credit for this.
These local examples show that our efforts to prevent suicide must be informed by the insights offered by those who best understand the nature of suicidal distress.
It is the knowledge of those with lived experience that must guide strategy, action and service provision to ensure a response that puts their needs at the forefront.